Jan. 7, 2020
By Penny Clute
Have you thought about suing the abuser, or reporting what happened to the police? Maybe you didn’t even know you could do this, since it was decades ago? Or, you did try to, but were told it was too late? New York has changed the law, giving victims of childhood sexual abuse more time to bring abusers to court. If you were victimized before you turned 18, this law applies to you.
When you were a child, probably no one talked about this. You thought you were alone; you likely thought it was your fault, but it was not. Perhaps the abuser made you keep it a secret, threatening to harm you or your family if you told. You felt ashamed and afraid. You thought no one would believe you, that everyone liked the person who abused you. You didn’t know it was happening to other kids, too. As a child, even a teenager, you couldn’t imagine standing up and saying out loud what he or she did to you. Or maybe you didn’t even realize until later that it was abuse; and that you are not responsible for it.
If the abuse has haunted your life, this big change in the law may help you.
The Statutes of Limitations are the time periods for bringing civil lawsuits and criminal charges in particular cases. Earlier this year, the state legislature passed changes that the governor signed into law on August 14. These new time limits apply to sexual crimes against children that occurred in New York State.
Criminal charges can now be brought by prosecutors until the victim turns 28 for felonies, or 25 for misdemeanors. The period of time available depends upon the victim’s age now, not on when the crime occurred.
In civil cases, where victims can sue abusers for money damages, the time period has been greatly extended.
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